Jun 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pepper spray was used on White House protesters, Secret Service says

Police run towards protesters

Law enforcement run towards protesters near Lafayette Park ahead of President Trump's trip to St. John's Church on June 1. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Secret Service on Saturday retracted its initial statement that no one in the agency used tear gas or pepper spray to forcibly clear peaceful protesters before President Trump's photo-op at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church last week.

The big picture: Backlash against the photo-op — and how it was made possible — was swift and widespread, with Republican senators, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ex-Secretary of Defense James Mattis denouncing the event.

The Secret Service's full statement:

"On June 5, the U.S. Secret Service released information stating that the agency had concluded that no agency personnel used tear gas or capsicum spray during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park on Monday, June 1, based on the records and information available at that time. Since that time, the agency has learned that one agency employee used capsicum spray (i.e., pepper spray) during that effort. Accordingly, the Secret Service is issuing the following correction to the record:
"After further review, the U.S. Secret Service has determined that an agency employee used pepper spray on June 1st, during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park. The employee utilized oleoresin capsicum spray, or pepper spray, in response to an assaultive individual."

Flashback: A U.S. Park Police spokesperson told Vox last week that it was a "mistake" to say that tear gas was not used to clear protesters from Lafayette Square.

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